Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bulk Freight and Container Shipping Terminals Up For Grabs to Highest Bidders

NSW Ready to Sell 99 Year Leases
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA - Plans announced last month by the New South Wales State Government planning to privatise the bulk and container freight handling terminals at Port Kembla and Port Botany have met with opposition from some quarters. The objective is to raise infrastructure investment throughout the state and will wrest control of Botany from the Sydney Ports Corporation who will retain responsibility for safety and security matters with shipping throughput left in the hands of the new owners. Kembla has had much public money spent on improvements of late and is currently run by the state owned port corporation.

The successful bidder should be known by December. Objections have been raised in various local quarters, despite promises of regional improvements coming from the proceeds, not least by local Wollongong Councillor Ann Martin who tabled a motion against the Port Kembla privatisation saying:

“A sale of the Port reallocates to the private sector, from the NSW taxpayers, millions of dollars of public investment in the Port and Port facilities by former state and federal governments, and risks the future growth and security of the Port if it falls into private hands, which might include compromising the future growth of the Port.

“A proposed sale may seriously undermine the future viability and competitiveness of the Port, particularly if the same purchaser also buys the Port of Botany which could result in a serious over reach of control of two significant pieces of national infrastructure, reduce workplace conditions of the local port and port related workforce and undermine the future funding and investment in the proposed *Maldon Dombarton Heavy Rail link.”

The Government believe they can net around half a billion Australian dollars from the deal and are leaving open the option for companies to bid on either or both of the 99 year leases available on both terminals which together moved over 50 million tonnes last year. The NSW authorities have a history in this regard with the former labour administration selling off Port Brisbane two years ago for a reported A$2.3 billion.

*The Maldon Dombarton line is referred to as ‘the missing link’ after decades of discussion regarding constructing the longest tunnel in Australia to join the main freight rail line to the port, a scheme started, stopped, and still under consideration following various feasibility studies.

Photo: Port Kembla